Our technology messages are important

Important message

When we take away technology access because of student behavior concerns, we send the message that digital devices and the Internet are optional, ‘nice to have’ components of schooling rather than core elements of modern-day learning and teaching.

When we ban teachers from using social media – but not other forms of interaction – to communicate with students in or out of school, we send the message that we are unable to distinguish between behaviors and the mediums in which they occur.

When we decline to devote adequate time or support for technology-related professional learning and implementation, we send the message that low-level or nonexistent usage is just fine.

When we require educators to go hat in hand to IT personnel to get an educational resource unblocked, we send the message that we distrust them so they must be monitored.

When we wag our fingers at students about inappropriate digital behaviors without concurrently and equally highlighting the benefits of being connected and online, we send the message that we are afraid of or don’t understand the technologies that are transforming everything around us.

When we make blanket technology policies that punish the vast majority for the actions of a few, we send the messages of inconsistency and unfairness.

When we ignore the power of online and social media tools for communication with parents and other stakeholders, we send the message of outdatedness.

When we fail to implement hiring, induction, observation, coaching, and evaluation structures that emphasize meaningful technology integration, we send the message that it really isn’t that important to what we do in our classrooms.

When we treat students as passive recipients of teacher-directed integration rather than tapping into their technology-related interests, knowledge, and skills, we send the message that they don’t have anything to contribute to their own learning experiences. And that control is more important than empowerment.

When we continue to place students in primarily analog learning spaces and ignore that essentially all knowledge work these days is done digitally, we send the message of irrelevance to our students, parents, and communities.

Are these the messages that we intend to send with our technology decision-making (or lack thereof)? Often not, but what counts is the perceptions of the recipients of our decisions. 

What technology messages is your school system sending? (and what would you add to this list?)

Image credit: Important message, Patrick Denker

11 Responses to “Our technology messages are important”

  1. The messages sent by the actions you describe above are examples of unethical behavior as defined by the license to practice as a teacher or school administrator. When do we gather the gumption to say so?

  2. Thank you for your post. I am unaware of the defined rules of the school district you provided examples for above. However, I find that your post is a bit extreme. It is my experience that the only true websites that are blocked in schools are those of social media (i.e.. Facebook, twitter, etc.). These sites can be easily assessed from the students cell phones, that they always find a way to use throughout the day, so they are really never truly “blocked”. I do not find that these websites are considered educational or worthy of use during the school day. There are plenty of ways to communicate with parents and students. Email, blogs, phone, and websites to name a few. I have never heard of these forms of communication between teacher and parent or teacher and student to be blocked or denied. I agree that social media has become the current generation’s way of communication, however, there are many ways to access what may be posted on these blocked social media sites without blaming the schools access. Simply asking students to bring in a copy of a post would provide the same educational support without allowing access during the school day. I personally have many social media accounts and do not think they should be allowed access to throughout the school day. They are distracting and would not provide the educational purposes I am understanding you think they will. I have found that a wide variety of technology is available in schools today that do not portray these unethical behaviors you speak of.

  3. Thank you Scott for this very timely post. I used to teach in a district that at one time was very much like the district you describe. Time, experience, and education help us grow leaps and bounds. By my last year in that district teachers and students had access to anything they needed.

    I am now in a district that provides students with unprecedented (at least in my region) access to the internet. We have very little blocked and students are allowed (and encouraged!) to add educational as well as social apps to their Chromebooks. We are in the process of rewriting our AUP’s (hope to call them EUP’s next year) and I am scouring your blog for examples and ideas. This is such an exciting time for me because I have worked for this for so long, but I realize there are some who are not quite ready for this. I know in time the culture will shift as more educators and administrators see the incredible opportunities that are available to our students. I’m looking forward to sharing your work and ideas with my colleagues.

  4. Hi Scott and group.

    I admire your passion. It seems your central message is digital integration in schools should be open to facilitate students developing skills they need to be productive through life. It is true. At the same time, older educators have not mastered the technology enough to guide students to be productive citizens. They also have to keep students safe. I honestly believe for many teachers the leap is too much for them but with proper support it is a reachable goal. I believe the administrators need to be realistic and accept it is an incremental process that perhaps over 5-10 years can happen. It begins with changing the culture of the schools. It starts helping less tech-savvy teachers to use the tools for their benefit. Like, reducing work-load, sharing resources, etc.
    In the near term, we can look to ways to prepare students to be socially functional in the world and master the dominant information landscape of their time to be economically productive outside of the formal educational settings. Non-formal programs can adapt quicker than large schools and be brought into the schools to transform the culture.

  5. “When we take away technology access because of student behavior concerns, we send the message that digital devices and the Internet are optional, ‘nice to have’ components of schooling rather than core elements of modern-day learning and teaching.”

    I think the same is true for treating access to technology as a reward. I am seeing elementary teachers in my district offer iPad time or extra time on Lexia as a reward for good behavior. I understand the appeal, and it does motivate students, but it also reinforces the idea that this technology is not a natural component of the learning environment; it is something extra that’s treated as a novelty instead of an important, useful learning tool. I think there has to be a deeper understanding across the board from teachers and administrators that the internet and computers are not a fad, they will not be going away. Technology tools should become part of the regular arsenal of instructional materials for all teachers. Students aren’t given extra time to read a textbook or work with math manipulatives as a reward. An iPad is as much a learning tool as those traditional materials, but by treating like a novelty, regardless of the intention, it trivializes the educational value and importance of technology devices in the classroom.

  6. Hello Scott and group,

    Your blog posting this week struck a chord with me when you wrote:

    “When we fail to implement hiring, induction, observation, coaching, and evaluation structures that emphasize meaningful technology integration, we send the message that it really isn’t that important to what we do in our classrooms.”

    I have been going through similar struggles and conflicts at work. I think the major difference between my experience and those of your readers is that I train college professors on how to integrate instructional technology tools into their fully online courses.

    Currently, our Adjunct Professors do not need to take any training on pedagogy/andragogy or instructional technologies to teach in our online programs. Additionally, some of the adjunct professors hired have never taught an online course before and a few of them have never taught at all! The very instructors that need the most support are not getting it because training is not viewed as integral to online course delivery.

    What makes this upsetting to me is that we do not have any of the restrictions your readers contend with on a day to day basis. We do not limit technologies used in the classroom nor do we exclude any social or collaborative tools. We have a talented and dedicated staff ready to help and provide training, however it is underutilized.

    Does anyone have any advise you could share for how you, your administration, or your district have dealt with the failure to implement structures that emphasize meaningful technology integration and possibly changed the culture or policy that allowed this to happen in the first place?

  7. Thanks for your post!
    The school district I teach in is very similar to the situation you described. We miss the opportunity to empower our students to access knowledge (especially out of the classroom) when we limit their ability to use the internet in school. It also is hypocritical since as adults we have a knee-jerk reaction to search on google for answers to questions we may have. Instead schools assume students are using the internet as a distractor instead of a tool for curiosity. Also students often see technology as a behavior incentive instead of a tool. Since they view our laptops as something that can be given or taken away based on behavior they do not view them as tools. It also means a lot of our students will be unprepared when we take the PARCC assessments because they lack the computer literacy skills to navigate the test fluidly.

    In my school district teachers must take a digital awareness test to access past the firewall. While it may seem reasonable it is not always a reliable solution and sometimes it is just ridiculous what is blocked. It makes no sense that I can access ESPN but not an educational resources, especially if the resource is a game.

  8. Scott, I’d add a “When…” statement to include the poor staffing and pay conditions for first-level tech support in schools. The staffing and recruitment policies for edtech departments is something that I’m in the midst of researching. I’m afraid I’ll again be referencing your “Dearth” article yet again because there just isn’t enough empirical evidence or practitioner journals that reference good hiring practices for our digital age. Any tips/advice? Please let me know what direction I could take on this one.

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